A student carried out of a University of Manchester building by bailiffs is continuing her rent strike — even as she fears being expelled.
Tia, 20, was filmed being evicted by private contractors on Wednesday after they made a dawn raid on the Simon Building.
She was one of around 20 protesters who had occupied two rooms on the third floor in protest at ‘sky high’ rent fees during the cost of living crisis.
They want the university to relieve the ‘unlivable’ pressures of mounting bills and the impact of what they say is a real terms reduction in the government’s student maintenance loan.
Tia, one of around 50 students who have been occupying the campus building since the occupation began on February 13, had been asleep when the bailiffs arrived shortly after 5am.
‘They broke through the door and we were told to pack up all our belongings and leave the building straight away,’ she said.
‘Some of us didn’t voluntarily leave immediately so they started to pick people up with four or five men carrying each person.
‘They took them to the lift and then carried them one by one out of the building. Two of them dragged me to the lift and then four or five of them carried me when we got to the ground floor and dumped me outside.
‘It was really scary. Having 15 big men barge their way into your room while you are sleeping and begin being aggressive and shouting is not a nice experience for anyone.
‘The uni did have a possession order granted so we knew that an eviction was a possibility but we didn’t know they would come that morning.
‘We were only having a peaceful protest so it shows any claim they have to care about student welfare is not the case.’
Tia, who asked to be known by her first name, said supporters gathered outside and began singing before the police arrived with the officers and bailiffs remaining at the building throughout the day.
The eviction followed a series of occupations over what the protesters claim are ‘sky high’ rent charges by a university which had an operating surplus of £119 million in the last financial year.
According to a statement by the protesters, more than 350 first year students have committed to withholding a total of £500,000 in protest at a rent increase for the 2022 academic year.
Tia, a sociology student from London, told Metro.co.uk she has withheld around £1,500 in rent and plans to continue the strike and take more direct action if the university does not negotiate.
‘I have been told I am under disciplinary investigation so I don’t know what my future is at the university, one of the possible consequences is being expelled which is ridiculous considering it was a peaceful protest,’ she said.
‘They say they care about social justice and responsibility but when students protest about the cost of living they crack down like this without even sitting down and listening to what we are saying.
‘This occupation has ended but I have no plans to stop protesting and we have started to think about new forms of action and putting more pressure on the university.
‘There’s a crisis for students, one in 10 have to use Foodbanks and many are finding their maintenance loans do not even cover their rent and they are having to work many hours a week just to afford to live.
‘That’s why we think that it’s outrageous that a university which made a profit of £130 million last year is not using these resources to allow students to focus on their studies.’
The university maintains that a package of cost of living support has been put in place for students which is among the best at any UK university and a ‘huge amount’ of related services are available.
The public body emphasises that it is a charity and does not make a profit, with any income unspent in a year going back into ‘essential investments’ for students such as study spaces and libraries.
A spokesperson said: ‘On Wednesday officers of the High Court attended the Simon Building to enforce a court order on a small group of students who had been illegally occupying rooms there since 13 February 2023.
‘This action follows multiple requests to those occupying the building to leave, and court hearing papers being served on the occupiers on 15 March 2023. The court granted the university a possession order on Monday, and copies of the order were served to the occupiers.
‘We very much regret having to do this, but the situation has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caused ongoing disruption to students and the people who work in the building.’
The university further maintains that as of March 9, 44 people declared to credit control that they were withholding rent as part of the campaign, out of more than 8,000 residents.
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